Who is eligible to vote and when will SRA voting close?
Last Friday St Francis Today (SFT) published a letter from reader Rod Suter that partially supported the work being done by St Francis Property Owners (SFPO) committee but raised several uncertainties. SFT approached SFPO and received a very comprehensive reply to the queries which may set some hearts at rest.
On the question of whether residents of private estates (e.g. Links, Homestead, Airpark, Royal Wharf, River Glades, etc.) would be liable, SFPO responded that it is in consultation with these estate body corporates rather than individual property owners within the estates. As there are overlaps in levies charged, it becomes a complex but not insurmountable situation. Certainly improvement to St Francis as a whole is beneficial to all residents and thus the ideal is for all 3500 property owners to take ownership of the region rather than 2150 property owners who fall outside of these estates. Equitable solutions are being investigated with each estate body corporate and this obviously is taking time but no doubt most estates appreciate the importance of improving the overall infrastructure of St Francis.
On the subject that business (industrial / commercial) erven within St Francis, these Mr Suter feels should be contributing significantly more in terms of the rates they presently pay. There are only 70 such erven out of the 3500 plus properties in St Francis and SFPO suggests that to escalate these rates more in line with other industrial / commercial hubs would make little difference to the income generated for the SRA. There is little enthusiasm to develop St Francis into an industrial hub as the St Francis 2030 vision clearly indicated and even by escalating the industrial rates, the estimated income the proposed 50% levy would still under recover what is required. Considering the huge numbers of unemployed in Sea Vista, keeping business rates relatively low would ensure minimal job losses.
Mr Suter continues that “The process appears to exclude anyone other than individual ratepayers/property owners; this is clearly not in accordance with the requirements of the Act to include also residents, civic organisations, NGO’s, visitors and disadvantaged communities”. SFPO’s reply begs to differ in that in terms of the Municipal Property Rates Act, Act 6 of 2004, the municipality is obliged to consult the local community and to obtain the consent of the members of the local community who will be liable for paying the additional rate (Section 22 of the Act). The distinction is thus made between the public participation process where the broader community and all interest groups are consulted but with the voting itself restricted to ratepayers.”.
On the question of political interference in the future, the act (Section 22(3)(d)), clearly states that “a consultative committee of the special rating area, after its establishment, will advise the municipality in this regard and not the politicians. It was agreed with the municipality that an NPC will be registered (an NPC has already been formed) and the additional funds will be ring-fenced and controlled by the directors of the NPC consisting of representatives of the proposed special rating area.”
Several readers have questioned the security and validity of the vote. As per an earlier article in St Francis Today (“Consent or Vote”) the SRA is neither a national referendum, general nor municipal election and as such does not fall under the watchful eye of the IEC. Voting will close once the vote exceeds a 50% plus one vote either YES or NO and results will be both audited and available for scrutiny by the public. It is important to note it is not a percentage of those who vote as in an election but the total number of votes received and counted against the maximum number of votes, That is if all property owners the number is 3500 potential votes thus the 50% plus one would be in the region of 1750 plus 0ne. If private estates are excluded the vote count would be 1075 plus one either for or against. A daily record of those who have voted is published on the SPFO website and whilst the website does not display whether it is a YES or NO vote, voters are quite within their rights to check and view their vote to ensure is has not been altered at any time before or after the count.
In essence what SFPO is working towards is to first restore St Francis’ infrastructure to a first class environment with decent roads, effective security (CCTV camera infrastructure) throughout the residential and commercial areas, water borne sewage replacing the honey suckers, beautiful Blue Flag beaches and an easily navigable river. First class infrastructure will attract first class investment by way of new home buyers developing vacant land thereby generating more income to make St Francis one of the best, if not best, holiday destination and residential towns on the South African coast. Better infrastructure equals more investment.
ALL FIGURES QUOTED ABOVE WITH REGARD TO NUMBER OF PROPERTY OWNERS AND VOTES NEEDED ARE APPROXIMATES AND NOT EXACT NUMBERS.
St Francis Today is soliciting neither a YES or NO vote but rather putting information out into the public domain. To date, over a month since our first article on the subject, a few readers have made it quite clear they will not support the SRA but no one has suggested even a hint of an alternative of how our deteriorating infrastructure can be reversed. Certainly there have been criticisms but little by way of constructive suggestions. Ignoring a problem won’t make it disappear so if your vote is NO, what is your suggestion to reverse the decay of our beautiful town. We would love to hear from you and so would other readers, we are sure!.